Women’s healthcare in 40s
Turning 40 is a milestone and often a time of transition. One change that is inevitable is the transition toward menopause. Women reaching this milestone is somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55. Some are considered "menopausal" when you haven't had a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.
But, before reaching this milestone, one can experience a number of changes for a full decade before menstrual cycle finally stops. Every part of body is affected, from appearance to the health of heart and bones.
* Perimenopause," or the "menopause transition," this life stage is defined by physical, emotional and psychological changes. As body's estrogen levels decrease, a woman may notice these changes:
* Menstrual periods that are heavier or lighter, shorter or longer than you're used to
* One or more missed menstrual period followed by a regular period
* Hot flashes, irritability, decreased sex drive and problems sleeping
Metabolism continues to slow during the transition to menopause and weight gradually shifts from hips and thighs to abdomen, shoulders and chest. Because body produces less estrogen at near menopause, there is increased risk for bone loss, which can lead to the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. In addition to osteoporosis, the risk for certain diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes increases. It's more important than ever to have regular medical checkup and basic screening tests, including a pelvic exam, mammogram, cholesterol test and possibly others, with the advice of your health care professional.
Preventive health screenings
Regular visits to health care professionals for preventive health screenings are important. If one is at high risk or have a family history of health problems, or have serious medical conditions, you'll need additional screenings and checkups beyond the basic recommendations listed here:
Blood pressure test for hypertension: Have your blood pressure taken at least every two years; more often if it is at or above 120/80.
Bone mineral density exam/bone mass measurement: Get screened at age 40 only if you are at increased risk for osteoporosis or low bone density because of using certain medications; have a disease or condition known to be associated with bone loss; or if you have recently broken a bone under certain circumstances.
Cholesterol: Have your blood cholesterol tested every five years or more frequently if you have risk factors for heart disease.
Clinical breast exam: Starting at age 40, you should have this exam every year. Your doctor or other health care professional will examine your breasts for any abnormalities.
Dental exam: Checkups can detect early signs of oral health problems and bone loss. Professional tooth cleaning is also important for preventing oral problems and is usually done every 6 to 12 months.
Diabetes blood glucose (sugar) test: You should be screened every three years starting at age 45; more often or earlier if you're overweight or have other risks for diabetes.
Eye exam: The Opthalmology now recommends that starting at age 40, adults with no risk factors or signs of eye disease get a baseline eye screening. Then based on the results of that initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary follow-up exams. For people of any age with symptoms of eye disease or risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or family history of eye problems, the academy recommends they see an ophthalmologist to determine how often they should have their eyes examined.
Mammography: Beginning at age 40, one should be screened for breast cancer with mammography every one to two years.
Pap test and pelvic exam: Get a Pap test every three years or both a Pap test and an HPV test every five years (you can get both tests at the same time). The Pap test screens for abnormalities that could indicate pre- or early cervical cancer. Exception: If you have risk factors such as previous abnormal screening results, multiple sex partners, a weakened immune system, a history of DES exposure in utero or HIV infection, you should have a Pap test every year. exam, annually.
Skin exam for skin cancer: Examine skin once a month for changes, such as moles that change color, shape or size. If someone has risk factors for skin cancer, she may need periodic skin exams by a dermatologist or other health care professional.
Thyroid test (TSH): Recommendations vary. The American Thyroid Association recommends having a TSH screening test at age 35 and then once every five years. The American Academy of Family Physicians does not recommend screening patients before age 60. And, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force states that there's not enough evidence to recommend for or against thyroid screening in adults.
Weight: Obesity screening is now considered a preventive checkup.
So, if you've been making healthy lifestyle choices, keep it up in your 40s, and if you haven't, now's the time to start. Healthy habits like eating right, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, not smoking, can help reduce your risk for a number of chronic medical conditions.